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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Ford’s Lobster lease ends in Noank

    The closed Ford’s Lobster facility in Noank, Wednesday, November 23, 2023. (Tim Martin/Special to The Day)
    The closed Ford’s Lobster facility in Noank, Wednesday, November 23, 2023. Tim Martin, Special to The Day
    The closed Ford’s Lobster facility in Noank, Wednesday, November 23, 2023. Tim Martin, Special to The Day

    Groton ― The lease for the popular Ford’s Lobster restaurant on Riverview Avenue in Noank has ended, but the owners are confident they will be back next season in a different location.

    Meanwhile, restaurateur Dan Meiser, who owns Oyster Club, The Port of Call and Engine Room in Mystic, said in a statement that “we’re actively exploring opportunities” for the property and “look forward to sharing plans with the community as they develop.“

    Ford’s Lobster/Haring’s Marine has posted on its Facebook page that the lease for the waterfront property, located next to the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative and near homes, was terminated.

    “We opened in 2010 with a hot dog cart and a couple plastic tables,” the post said. “We got busy. We worked hard. We received a cease and desist letter from the town. We fought zoning. 2013-2019 yay! 2020-2022: COVID regulations, changing Covid regulations, staff shortages, supply shortages. 2023: cancer and a lease termination based on the fact that we’re too busy and property owners cannot enjoy their property. They have since decided to lease to someone else.“

    “We’ve survived a lot and we will survive this,” the post continued. “We have some very solid leads from people who want us and we are confident we’ll be back next season although a bit different.”

    The Ford’s Lobster property was quiet this week, with the iconic lobster sign in front of Ford’s taken down. The yellow “Gas - Diesel Haring’s Marine Ice - Lobster” sign was still visible.

    According to Town of Groton records, Nine Riverview Co. Inc. owns the multi-use commercial property at 19 Riverview Ave. Meiser relayed a statement from Nine Riverview Co. confirming that “a 5-year non-renewal notice was given in February 2019 per the terms of the lease” to owners of Ford’s.

    Kris and Kerrie Nyman, the restaurant operators, declined to comment further, but confirmed there is no impact on Ford’s Black and Blue, their other restaurant at Spicer’s Marina.

    The history of the two restaurants is detailed on Ford’s Black and Blue website:

    “In 2010, Kris and Kerrie Nyman purchased a hot dog cart with the last bit of their savings, crossed their fingers and hoped people would come by for a lobster roll to the quaint Ford’s Lobster/Haring Marine site. Visitors flocked to the venue and two years later, the indoor dining room was designed. With that success, they decided to venture further in Noank to open Ford’s Black & Blue, located just down the road at Spicer’s Marina.”

    Noank Zoning Enforcement Officer Bill Mulholland said he has not received any complaints about Ford’s Lobster since the first year of operation.

    In 2014, Ford’s Lobster faced a cease-and-desist order and dispute over the number of seats at the restaurant.

    Groton Town Manager John Burt said the town just learned of the news about the lease and is working to see what properties are available to the Nymans.

    Robert Boris, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission, said he shared the surprise of others upon hearing the property owner’s decision to not renew Ford’s lease and immediately took action to help the Nymans look for a new location.

    “Keeping this cherished business in our community is of paramount importance,” he said in a statement. “As lifelong residents, we all treasure Ford’s memories and contributions to our town. I am fully committed to ensuring Fords remains integral to our economic and cultural fabric.”

    Following discussions with Kerrie Nyman, Boris said he connected her with state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, who has identified promising potential locations, including the boatyard across from the Daniel Packer Inne. Boris said he also has explored suitable sites along Thames Street in the City of Groton.

    “Working together, our community can help preserve this local institution; creating jobs and memories for future generations,” said Boris. He encouraged people to reach out if they have any suggestions for suitable locations.

    Steve Plant, owner/operator of neighboring Connecticut Cultured Oysters, reflected on how the Nymans built Ford’s Lobster from a hot dog cart into a restaurant where people willingly would wait two-and-a-half hours in the parking lot to get a table in the establishment that didn’t even have a bar and was B.Y.O.B.

    “They turned that place into a landmark,” Plant said. “People came from all over to go there.”

    Plant said during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kris Nyman was generous enough to find a spot at Ford’s Lobster where Plant could serve oysters to customers that he harvested that morning. Plant said that in the last two years, his daughter took over shucking oysters there.

    At Carson’s Store in Noank on Wednesday, Groton resident Kathleen Hall-Lanteri lamented the news and said she has been going to Ford’s since day one.

    She and her husband go there often, and she said the food is “over the top” good. She said it was nice sitting with her feet dangling over the water to see the boats go up and down the river.

    She said she felt brokenhearted to hear the news.

    “It’s a shame,” she said. “I’m so sad to hear that.”

    k.drelich@theday.com

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